Energy-Efficient Roofing: Here’s What to Know

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated November 17, 2022
white home with solar panel on roof
Photo: Kenneth / Adobe Stock


  • Energy-efficient roofing reflects solar energy to ward off heat.

  • Cool roofing generally refers to a reflective coating.

  • Metal roofs are an affordable, durable, and energy-saving choice.

  • Energy-efficient roofs can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $41,000.

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When record-breaking heat strikes your home, ramping up those fans and air conditioners can lead to a high energy bill. But an energy-efficient roof can help curb your energy usage by reflecting heat away from your home and keeping your house cooler. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the best roofing material and styles for energy efficiency. 

What Is Energy-Efficient Roofing?

Energy-efficient roofs are typically made from light-colored, reflective materials that bounce solar energy away from the house and ward off harsh UV rays. This feature saves you on cooling energy that you’d otherwise need to offset hot indoor temperatures.

Traditional roofing typically has dark colors that attract heat. And, while the best attic insulation in the world and a good ventilation system will help reduce indoor temps, they won’t keep out the heat like an energy-efficient roof.

Energy-Efficient vs. Cool Roofing

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), cool roofing reflects sunlight better than conventional roofing, helping to prevent heat absorption and higher indoor temperatures. Though the terms “energy efficient roof” and “cool roof” are often used interchangeably, cool roofing describes the technique of painting a light-colored reflective coating over flat or low-slope roofs. Energy-efficient roofing, on the other hand, refers to any rooftop that reflects thermal energy—be it a high-pitched roof, a low-pitched roof, or anything in between.

Best Types of Energy-Efficient Roofing

8 types of energy-efficient roofs, including TPO roofs, wood shingles, and solar shingles

Investing in an energy-efficient roof is a big financial decision that you shouldn’t take lightly. Here are the most energy-efficient roofing options to help you choose the best roof for your home.

Metal Roofs

dark grey metal roof
Photo: Natallia / Adobe Stock

Budget-friendly and versatile, metal roofs offer many homeowners the opportunity to save big time on energy bills in the summer. Metal is hot to the touch because it is excellent at reflecting those hot rays back into the air. White metal roofs have the highest solar reflectance, but silver metal will also positively impact your energy bills. One of the biggest issues with metal roofs is their susceptibility to dents and scratches.

Asphalt Shingles

brown asphalt shingles on grey home
Photo: Victor / Adobe Stock

Asphalt shingles are another affordable and energy-efficient roofing. The key to getting the most out of asphalt shingles is to choose one with light-coated granules so that the roof reflects more sunlight. Energy Star-certified asphalt shingles ensure that you choose a product that keeps your home cool. The cons of choosing asphalt shingles include a shorter lifespan than some of the other options—15 to 30 years—lower solar reflectances, and a higher susceptibility to damage.

Concrete Tile Roofs

concrete roofing tiles
Photo: imamember / iStock / Getty Images

Concrete tiles maximize natural energy efficiency while providing a gorgeous rooftop that could be the talk of the neighborhood. Since tiles are laid individually rather than in sheets like shingles and metal roofs, concrete tiles often have a lot of natural airflows that help move heat away from the home. Not to mention, concrete tiles can last up to 100 years with proper roof maintenance. The main downsides are that concrete tiles are heavy, susceptible to mold and water damage, and can fade and deteriorate over time. 

Clay Tile Roofs

red clay tiles on roof
Photo: Emilija / Adobe Stock

Clay tiles are a beautiful addition to your home. These tiles contain a high thermal emittance, meaning they reject heat absorption and propel heat away from the house. Like concrete tiles, clay is heavy and may need additional support for the installation. This option is also pricier than asphalt, metal, and concrete—especially if you need to install a substructure for support.

Wood Shingles

A cedar rooftop converts your roof into a golden beauty that just so happens to emit solar rays. Wood shingles are naturally insulating, helping to lower your HVAC usage in the winter and the summer. This material is all-natural, recyclable, and biodegradable, too. You’ll pay somewhere in the average range for a wood shingle rooftop. Wood might not be a good option for humid, rainy climates, where mold can become a problem, or in dry areas at risk of fire hazards.

Solar Shingles

solar tile on shingles roof
Photo: Negro Elkha / Adobe Stock

Also called solar roofs or solar tiles, solar shingles are permanent, tile-shaped solar panels that turn your roof into a futuristic-looking one. Not only do solar shingles cut costs by keeping heat out of your home, but they absorb solar energy and convert it into electricity for use around the house, making them the ultimate, energy-efficient roofing system. They do, however, come at a cost—literally. Expect to pay more for solar shingles than most other energy-efficient roofing options.

Slate Shingles

close up slate shingles
Photo: mirkograul / Adobe Stock

Speaking of pricier options, slate roofing comes at the top of the list for an average of $41,000, but you’ll likely never need to replace a slate roof, as it can last for up to 200 years. Slate roofs are stunning, resistant to damage, fire, and mold, and ideal for homes at risk of hail and wind damage. But, like with concrete and clay tiles, slate shingles are just plain heavy and may require modifications to your existing roof before you can install them.

TPO Roofs

Thermoplastic polyolefin roofing (TPO) is a white, single-ply roofing system made of synthetic materials. This roof type has grown in popularity for low-pitched roofs and serves as a more energy-efficient alternative to modified bitumen roofing systems. The TPO membrane rolls onto the roof, where a trained professional either bonds the material with an adhesive, fastens it, or seals it using a ballast. 

Cool Roof Coating

If you recently installed a dark, conventional roof and still want the perks of energy-efficient roofing material, you can get around this by using a cool roof coating to convert your roof into an energy-efficient roof. Cool roof coatings come in various materials, but the most effective cool roof coating is a white roof coating, which can reduce up to 80% of sunlight. The coating is applied to the surface of your roof with a roller or brush and dries to form a protective barrier over your roof.

You should connect with a roofer near you to ensure that you use the right cool roof coating for your roof type, as some coatings aren’t designed for high-pitched roofs.

How to Choose the Right Energy-Saving Roof

Aside from the cost of energy-efficient rooftops, energy-efficient roofs benefit your home in nearly every way—but you still have to ensure you choose the right energy-efficient roof for your home. Here are six key factors that determine which energy-efficient roofing material is right for you.

1. Cost

Your budget largely impacts which rooftop you choose. While a cool roof coating price may only be $1,000 to $2,500, installing solar shingles costs significantly more at around $36,500 on average. 

2. Roof Slope 

Most shingles and tile roofing options work for high-pitched roofs, but low-pitched or flat roofs require special materials or techniques to install an energy-efficient roof and work best with metal, TPO, or cool roof coatings.

3. Your Existing Roof’s Condition

In some instances, you don’t need to replace your roof to achieve an energy-efficient one. If your roof is new, you might be able to apply a cool roof coating to it to reduce heat absorption. Always check with a local roofing contractor before applying any roofing material to an existing roof, as painting shingles may void your roof’s warranty or damage the roof.

4. Fire Hazards

If you live somewhere prone to wildfires, you’ll want to avoid wood shingles, which—though energy efficient—are more flammable than the other options. Instead, opt for a metal roof, which is naturally flame-resistant.

5. Climate

In your quest to save energy, you don’t want to lose energy if you live in a region with long cold seasons. Though the summer heat might be unbearable for a few months, homeowners in cooler regions will want to avoid some energy-efficient roofing options like wood shakes and concrete tiles, which don’t hold up to harsh, cold weather. Contrary to popular belief, metal roofing is an excellent option for both cold and hot climates because it’s durable, fire-resistant, and long-lasting. 

6. Ventilation

Lastly, even with an energy-efficient roof, if you have poor ventilation in your attic, your roof can only do so much to prevent the heat transferred into your home from cranking up your indoor temps. Be sure to invest in roof ventilation when you upgrade to an energy-efficient roof.

Frequently Asked Questions

White is the most energy-efficient color for roofs because solar energy reflects off white surfaces the best. Silver is also a good choice.

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